Yesterday several witnesses gave evidence in the Dolin Vs. GSK trial. Stewart Dolin's co-worker, Mike LoVallo was first examined by plaintiff's attorney, David Rappaport. Rappaport asked LoVallo a few questions about Stewart's day-to-day role at their firm. The same can't be said for King & Spalding's resident jack-in-the-box, Andrew Bayman, whose cross-examination gave a whole new meaning to the word "boring."
Bayman seemed to gain nothing with his tiresome line of questioning. Rather, he unwittingly highlighted for the jury the lame ways GSK tries to defend its drug and product labels. Thus far, GSK has blamed the FDA, the prescribing physician, and the now deceased Paxil victim, Stewart Dolin. GSK's repetitious cross-examination never focuses on the company's duty to inform doctors and patients of the real risks posed by its product. Had GSK done everything it could have and should have done decades ago when Paxil hit the market, there would be no Dolin Vs. GSK trial.
As we've seen before, Bayman's cross-examination of LoVallo lasted longer than plaintiffs' direct examination. King & Spalding plays the 'you-didn't-say-that-two-years-ago' game. They frequently ask the witness or expert questions that were already answered years ago in depositions. Perhaps King & Spalding believe it is ground-breaking to discover that a witness might use slightly different words when explaining the same sentiment and thoughts the witness shared years before? Their tactics are akin to a team of schoolyard bullies goading their victim, trying to put words into their mouths. More often than not, witnesses and experts called thus far have had to tell King & Spalding to read the whole of the depositions. But King & Spalding want to take lines out of context and read, what they deem, might be damning evidence against the witness or expert. GSK's attorneys know full well there is no "caught you" there, but they hope some of their misleading questions will be heard by the jury to cast doubt on Paxil's starring role in Stewart Dolin's death.
Apparently, pharmaceutical company attorneys like to "cherry pick" data and stretch the truth in court just as pharmaceutical companies do in clinical trials. But today GSK's legal tactics didn't amount to much when questioning the Dolin family.
King & Spalding's Cross-Examination
King & Spalding chose a new player for their circus performance. No jack-in-the-box Bayman, no clown antics from Todd Davis. Instead, King & Spalding opted to cross-examine the Dolin family by using a female attorney from their firm. Ursula Henninger (pictured above) has, according to her online profile, more than 20 years of experience trying personal injury claims in courts throughout the United States. She has defended a variety of product liability claims, including those against tobacco manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies. Seems a bit odd that she was relegated as a mere courtroom sidekick, sitting quiet as a mouse with seemingly no active role in the trial until today when the Dolin family took the witness stand.
You can draw your own conclusions as to why King & Spalding decided to use Henninger to cross-examine the Dolin family. Is it a stereotypical, sexist tactic? You know, choose a female attorney to question the widow and her children? Is GSK hoping the jury will see a female lawyer as a "softer, kinder" interrogator? Perhaps. But if playing the gender card was part of GSK's strategy, it didn't seem effective. Henninger offered no condolences to any member of the Dolin family and instead jumped straight into her questions. She lacked sympathy and empathy, and I suspect this deficit will be noticed by the jury.
Stewart's children, Bari and Zach, gave evidence first and spoke of the love they had for their father and how empty they have felt since his passing. It was then the turn of their mom, and Stewart's widow, Wendy.
Enter Wendy Dolin.
I am going to be brief here as the court was recessed part-way through Wendy's evidence at the time of this writing. I'll update when Wendy Dolin finishes her testimony. With that said, it's important to report on Wendy's evidence thus far.
Wendy told the jury how she met Stewart at the age of 16 in Miami, Florida. She noted that they were married on June 15th, 1974. She recalled Stewart had a strong work ethic from a very young age. "He was delivering prescriptions for the Belmont Pharmacy. And or those of you I know are from Chicago, the pink hotel on Bryn Mawr used to have a soda shop. And he was a short-order cook there. And this was at 15 years old. So he was an extraordinarily hard worker and really smart."
Regarding Stewart's work-related anxiety problems, she told the jury, "Stewart was someone who was really proactive. I think that's the best way to put it. He took care of it. I mean, he thought about it, you know. You know, I just thought he was a normal human being who periodically had stress and anxiety like probably most of us."
Being asked about her typical weekends with Stewart, Wendy told the jury how much she and Stewart enjoyed each other's company. "Our weekends consisted of something that's really special. On Fridays and Saturday nights, he'd say, "Well, what time do you want to get up, Babes?" He used to call me Babes. And I'd tell him the time. And he'd usually bring up a cup of coffee, and then the dog would follow. And he would wake me up, and we'd come downstairs, and we'd sit on the couch in the living room, talk for a long time.
"Our friends used to say to me, "What the heck do you talk about?" And I'd say, "Well, we manage to talk." And that became known as couch time. And what's really special about couch time is my friends know how special that is, so when my friends sleep over, everybody has to have couch time. But that was really, you know, it's really funny, not funny ha ha. It's that, you know, we worked so hard to get to a place where we had no debt, and our house was paid off. You know, you saw these two beautifully high-functioning connected kids settled in their jobs, and you're able to do things like go to dinner or go on a trip. But when it's all taken away, that's what I just ache for, that special time, which is just brings you back to what it was really like to just be Wendy and Stewart."
Explaining her grief, Wendy told the jury, "I love writing to him. It's like cathartic. It's like couch time, you know, through a letter. And then the cemetery is still something that -- I don't know. Grief, it's, you know, everyone in this room, I'm sure, has had a loss of someone dear; and it's just really hard, you know. And I try to be whole as much as I can. I try to put on a happy face, but it's hard. There's always something there to remind me of him."
Tomorrow I will report on Wendy Dolin's cross-examination.
Akathisia is a disorder, induced by SSRI medications, which can cause a person to experience such intense inner restlessness that the sufferer is driven to violence and/or suicide. It has been said, "Death can be a welcome result."